As we continue our Dynamics CRM Never Stops Evolving blog series, we share the benefits of doing a CRM assessment and why it helps you plan your Dynamics 365 CE implementation.
In the first blog of our blog series, we explored how to determine if your existing CRM is meeting your organization’s needs. If you want to move forward with a new CRM or make major changes to your current CRM, you will need a roadmap to drive your vision.
You’d be hard-pressed to find an organization that is not constantly trying to improve its customer experience. Amazon is very transparent about this desire, with “customer obsession” listed as their first leadership principle. This principle is listed on their site, “Customer Obsession: Leaders start with the customer and work backward. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.”
Though some organizations may not call it an obsession, they’re striving for the same thing: Make customers happy, provide an incredible experience, and make them want to keep coming back for more. If used correctly, a customer relationship management tool, CRM for short, can help you achieve this goal.
In this blog post, we’ll talk about the power of a CRM – specifically Microsoft’s CRM tool, Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement or “CE” – how a CRM assessment works, why you need one, and why organizations should always have a clear roadmap for their CE implementation. Whether you’re already using a CRM, thinking about implementing a CRM for the first time, or even using Dynamics 365 CE and need to do some rearchitecting, this blog is for you.
The Benefits of Dynamics 365 CE
The list of benefits Dynamics 365 CE can bring to an organization is long. Still, the most convincing argument for why organizations need a CRM tool is to improve their customer relationships.
Dynamics 365 CE is much more than a database of customer information. However, the fact that you can store all customer and account data in a single, centralized location is a major benefit that organizations shouldn’t overlook.
When users track all emails, phone calls, tasks, marketing activities, notes, key documents, related contacts and more against a single customer, all Dynamics 365 CE users can see this information on the customer record. When all users operate off the same customer information, they have the context they need to create more personalized customer interactions, which we know will likely boost customer satisfaction.
Because Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement is a Microsoft product built on the Power Platform, it offers a number of integrations out-of-the-box that you can enable with a few clicks – track Outlook emails, access SharePoint documents, chat via Teams and more, all from within the CE user interface.
You can automate repetitive tasks with Power Automate, Microsoft’s low-code automation tool and easily pull CE data into Power BI for enhanced reporting. Additionally, Microsoft continuously evolves the AI capabilities in Dynamics 365 and issues regular feature updates.
Now that we know how Dynamics 365 CE can benefit your organization, let’s take a look at what it takes to actually implement the tool and start reaping some of the benefits.
Why You Need a CRM or CE Assessment
The purpose of a CRM assessment is to understand your organization’s current state pain points and needs so you can craft a future-state vision based on your findings.
Planning is a key part of any implementation. A detailed plan can mitigate project risk by providing accurate timeline and resource estimates. The more you know going into an implementation, the better your plan will be. By completing an assessment and evaluating key pain points, processes and data, your team will have what it needs to create a detailed project plan and, therefore, a solid foundation for your implementation.
Working with a Dynamics 365 CE Partner
While some implementations are less complex than others, we typically recommend working with a partner. Partners bring industry experience and software-specific knowledge that can prove extremely valuable during an assessment and implementation.
Beyond the software-specific knowledge, partners also bring:
- An objective perspective on your organization’s current state and areas of opportunity for improvement.
- Best practices and standards.
- Risk mitigation. Partners know which questions to ask and common mistakes to avoid.
- Cost-savings. Although partners come at a price, their expertise and efficiency can help the team avoid costly mistakes and shorten the project’s overall timeline.
- Change management strategies.
We recommend starting with a four-to-six-week week assessment before implementing Dynamics 365 CE. Here’s an example scenario of how a vendor might work with you during that time.
The Envisioning Workshop
At the beginning of the assessment, your partner should hold a discovery workshop. An example of this initial workshop is an “Envisioning Workshop” based on Microsoft’s Catalyst Framework, an assessment methodology available to Microsoft Partners. Business decision makers and other key business members affected by CE should attend the workshop. The goal is to capture and understand business challenges and opportunities then create a prioritized list of ideas for resolving these issues.
During the workshop, it may become clear each stakeholder group has its own list of high-priority pain points and needs. This is a common challenge, and it’s why we recommend starting with an assessment. The earlier you uncover misalignments, the better. In the envisioning workshop, your partner should help you gauge all your challenges and get stakeholders to collectively agree on a set of problems your teams can solve together.
After the envisioning workshop, the partner will organize the workshop findings to understand which follow-up workshops will need to take place. There will usually be at least two or three deep-dive workshops to better understand key business processes and current technology after the initial envisioning workshop. Once your partner gathers all the necessary details, they should begin crafting your solution assessment and product roadmap.
Building the Roadmap
While the solution assessment summarizes your findings from the assessment, the product roadmap is what you use to bridge the gap between business goals and functional capabilities. This roadmap is one of the most important deliverables from the assessment – it will serve as your team’s north star for the implementation project. The roadmap lays out which functionalities you need to roll out to users in each phase of the implementation to drive user adoption and, ultimately, ROI.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and a new CRM shouldn’t be either. Don’t include every Dynamics 365 CE feature on day one. A good partner will break implementations into phases so users can slowly get introduced to the new system. We typically recommend the “crawl, walk, run” method when implementing D365 CE.
- Crawl: Configure the system so that only core functionality is used and essential business needs are met. The crawl phase creates a strong foundation and lets users get comfortable with the system before deciding what comes next.
- Walk: Solicit feedback and learn how end users use the system, then roll out additional features and more complex processes to help them be more efficient. The walk phase builds upon the successful foundation created in the crawl phase and helps organizations gain momentum.
- Run: Once the system reaches a level of maturity, you can configure more complex features and integrations to further enhance efficiency. The run phase signifies the culmination of the implementation process, where the organization achieves the complete benefits of the software.
Throughout the implementation phases, your roadmap will serve as the reference point to keep the team on track. You can modify your roadmap over time as needed. As your team moves from phase to phase (crawl to walk, walk to run), they should use the lessons learned from the previous phase to update the roadmap.
You should also use the roadmap to gain alignment across key stakeholder groups and help with budgeting forecasts since the roadmap will contain work that will not happen for months if not a year or more.
Your Proof of Concept
At the end of your assessment, your partner will usually deliver a proof-of-concept demo (PoC). The PoC focuses on key functionality you will use on day one but should also show features you may need to use down the road. The purpose of the PoC is to:
- Show how Dynamics 365 CE functionality can address your organization’s issues and needs, with a focus on functionality you can use on day one.
- Get feedback from you about day one items versus what can wait for a future phase (or scratched from the roadmap altogether).
- Give you an overview of the “art of the possible” or D365 CE functionality likely unnecessary for day one but potentially useful down the road when the system is more mature.
After the PoC, your partner will organize the feedback received and modify the assessment and roadmap as needed. They should then meet with all key stakeholders to review the final assessment and roadmap, as well as estimates (timeline and budget) for implementing D365 CE.
Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
Implementing new software of any kind can be overwhelming, not only for the implementation team but also for the end users. To set yourself up for success, you need to start with a solid, agreed-upon understanding of the current state and your envisioned future.
Now that we’ve got a roadmap and a vision for your CRM, follow along and read the next article of this series to learn about the top 10 often missed, high-value features you should take advantage of and include on your roadmap.